Ambassador Cruise Line has made three new executive management team appointments.
Phil Gardner joins as chief commercial officer, Matthias Seeger has been named as chief financial officer, and Nick Hughes has taken up the role as chief operating officer.
As a result of these changes, Chris Coates, who delayed his retirement plans to operate as the first CCO of Ambassador Cruise Line, will transition into a consultancy role as “ambassador-at-large”, operating from June onwards in a part-time capacity.
Beginning its inaugural season in April, Ambassador recently announced its expansion plans into 2023 by adding a second ship to its fleet.
CEO Christian Verhounig, said: “I am very excited to formally welcome Matthias, Phil and Nick to the Ambassador family. Their expertise from both within and outside the cruise industry will bring extremely valuable and diverse knowledge to the business, further accelerating Ambassador’s growth plans to be the leading premium-value, authentic cruise line.”
Phil Gardner has more than 20 years of travel industry experience, with previous roles at First Choice, TUI UK Cruises and Thomas Cook. Before joining Ambassador, Gardner was chief commercial officer at Fosun Tourism Group, where he relaunched Thomas Cook.
In the CCO role with Ambassador, Gardner will be responsible for the guest proposition, sales, marketing and commercial planning, including digital and reservations centre interaction with guests and the travel trade.
Gardner said: “Opportunities like this don’t come round often. To be joining Britain’s newest cruise line, with the prospect of building on the amazing start Ambassador has made and be part of growing the business, was a compelling proposition. I look forward to being back in the heart of the cruise industry and developing a brand and business that is the envy of the UK cruise market.”
Matthias Seeger brings with him more than 25 years of experience as a finance and business executive from a broad range of commercial disciplines, spanning large blue-chip consumer goods and retail companies. His most recent appointment was as chief financial officer and board member for the Costcutter Supermarket Group.
Seeger said: “Within under a year, Ambassador has achieved a solid financial basis to build on. It’s an exciting time to be joining the executive team. With ambitious plans for its growth and development, I am looking forward to further defining the company’s financial plan and expanding the strategic finance function.”
Nick Hughes is a chartered marine engineer with early roots in the Royal Navy followed by roles in various sectors, including defence, shipping and cruise ship operation. Until 2020, Hughes spent seven years as head of technical operations with Marella Cruises (TUI UK Ltd) where he was responsible for fleet management, budget control and compliance. His most recent role was as director of the ROPAX Fleet at P&O Ferries. As COO for Ambassador Cruise Line, Hughes’ responsibilities will include overseeing maritime operations, engineering and the delivery of the onboard/in cruise experience.
Hughes said: “I am really delighted to be part of Ambassador’s exciting plans for the future. It is a great product, and I am looking forward to working more closely with guests. The overwhelming attraction for me was Ambassador’s clear vision and commitment to environmental protection, sustainability and upgrading the fleet to qualify within the top 10% of all cruise ships globally in terms of ESG rating. This is critical to the future of cruising. It will be fantastic to demonstrate Ambassador’s serious commitment to responsible holidays.”
Gardner and Seeger commenced their roles on February 1. Hughes will start in March.
The appointment of Matthias as CFO will enable Simon Weeks, who has been operating in an interim capacity in that position, to fully take up his new position as chief administrative officer. Simon will now focus on building and maintaining robust business processes, performance, and inter-departmental collaborations throughout the organisation. He remains a key member of the executive team.
CEO, Christian Verhounig, paid tribute to the “exceptional” contribution made by Chris Coates and Simon Weeks.
He said: “The contribution that both Chris and Simon have made to the initial set up and commercial launch of Britain’s first new cruise line in over a decade has been exceptional. It is a real asset to the business and the new team we have hired to have both continue their involvement in the business in their new roles outlined, leveraging their considerable experience. We are about nine weeks away from our inaugural cruise. Our first ship, Ambience, is completing its refit in dry dock in Croatia, our crew are assembling for training and the excitement about what we are going to deliver to our guests is palpable.”